Time to retire? A register-based study of GPs’ practice style prior to retirement

Jamie O'Halloran*, Anne Sophie Oxholm, Line Bjørnskov Pedersen, Dorte Gyrd-Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

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In many healthcare systems a large share of general practitioners (GPs) is retiring. The literature has shown a negative correlation between physicians' age and their quality of care. However, little is known about whether GPs exhibit different practice styles in the years prior to retirement. This study investigates whether GPs who are closer to retirement make different professional choices than GPs who are not as close to retirement. Using detailed administrative data on 555 Danish GPs and their patients from 2005 to 2017, we study GPs' practice styles across a ten-year period prior to retirement and compare these with GPs who retire at a later date (‘non-retiring GPs’), while controlling for age differences as well as exogenous factors affecting healthcare provision. We focus on the GPs' number of enlisted patients, revenue, provision of consultations, and treatment behaviour in consultations. We find no differences between retiring and non-retiring GPs for key outcomes such as ‘revenue per patient’ and ‘consultations per patient’. However, we find that retiring GPs have fewer enlisted patients in their final years of practicing. This finding is driven by more patients leaving rather than fewer patients joining their lists. We also find that retirement is associated with other dimensions of GPs' practice style, e.g. their provision of home visits, prescribing, and referral rates. Overall, we find a modest association between GPs' retirement and their practice style.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114099
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Access to healthcare
  • Denmark
  • Practice style
  • Primary care
  • Retirement


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